Guest Writers

Life Away From Home

Written by Judith C.

I often describe myself as a, “home-bird.” The Collins Dictionary definition of this term is, “A person who is reluctant to leave their hometown or their childhood home, or who returns after a period of living away“. 

Over the years the meaning of the word home has really intrigued me. Is home a place, a building,  the people, or something else? My years as an immigrant in Switzerland have taught me that the feeling of home isn’t the place, although places hold memories. Home is where the people we love are. Where we can be ourselves, totally relax, and be comfortable – a place of belonging. 

I grew up in a Christian home in Northern Ireland, UK, surrounded by our close relatives. God, church, family, friendship, and community were highly valued. All of these things form the core of my values to this day. 

I never imagined leaving Northern Ireland. Even going to another part of the UK for University was too much for me, so it might surprise you to know that I’ve lived in Switzerland for the past 13 years. These years as a foreigner have been full of joys but also full of the pain of separation from home, community, and the comfort of knowing a culture. I’ve wrestled greatly with God. Why was this the plan He had for my life? It’s so far from what I dreamed or wanted. I’ve questioned His love, and if I am truly honest, I’ve spent many seasons not really liking His plan.  

On our last Swiss anniversary I spent some time reflecting on the past 13 years here. I’ve travelled a lot in this country.  God’s creation here is breathtaking. I’ve been blessed with many strong Christian friends with whom I’ve been able to journey alongside through their own stories of pain while finding healing and joy. 

With God’s guidance, I have helped set up ministries which connect people and act as the hands and feet of Jesus during life’s transitions. I’ve watched as these ministries have grown and celebrated their 10th anniversaries. 

I have experienced God’s provision in many, many ways. The most memorable of these being that we needed a large deposit for our first rental property, but we didn’t have the money. However, God opened my eyes and highlighted something on my husband’s payslip – something which I’d looked at often over the previous 11 months and not noticed until this point. My husband had not been paid correctly for 12 months and the money he was owed was enough for the deposit! 

I have felt God hold me when I was terrified whilst on the operating table during the birth of my first child. I have watched him stretch time so I can make the train that I really needed to be on. There is much good in my life and there is no doubt in my mind that I, and my family, are meant to be living in Switzerland. But within all of that, I have still struggled to like His plan and my “new home”, especially when I feel like I’m missing out on relatives’ lives, and during difficult seasons.  

There have been many seasons of grief and difficulty during my time in Switzerland. I’ve grieved the passing of some family members, and watched and prayed from afar as various others have been ill and hospitalised. I myself had postnatal depression, job redundancies, and am currently in a challenging season of strange health issues. 

I have also had to grieve the life I thought I would have. As we know, grieving is a process. I feel the separation from family, friends, traditions and security – those seeds of home deeply.

Living here has meant that I’m not the daughter, relative, and friend I always expected I would be. Being far away, I miss out on celebrations and also being there physically to sit beside family and friends sharing in challenging times. I also miss out on the wee things in life, just hanging out for coffee chatting about random stuff, and picking up on new cultural references.  

It has also meant that my life plan has been altered from the one where I live in a spacious house in the countryside, have a good job, watch my children grow up and retire near them. It’s been swapped for a small apartment, bringing my children up in a culture and school system that I am still learning, and the uncertainty of not knowing what country in the world my children will end up living in, let alone where I will retire too. The illusion of certainty has gone.  

Though there have been many tears shed, it comforts me to find examples of expressing grief and lament in the Bible. The story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 comes to mind. In verse 10 it says that Hannah was in, “Deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.” Hannah’s emotions were not overlooked in the Bible! This shows me that God cares deeply about every part of our being, including our emotional state. God has seen and noted my pain:  “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.“ Psalm 56:8 

The Bible contains many passages expressing deep pain and struggles. This has shown me that God cares and wants to hear what we think and feel. We should not be afraid to take our pain and struggles to God. Lamenting is a practice I have slowly learned over the years. Bringing my challenges and emotions to God in prayer. Remembering all that He has done for me in the past and praising him for His provision, His love, and His kindness. 

Through the practice of lament I have gained a different perspective on the directions of my life and His plan. When I take off my self-centred point of view, and put on Kingdom lenses, I can see my struggles, loneliness and pain over these years have not been wasted. There is purpose and there is a plan. Would I have helped set up a ministry which connects young adults if I had not struggled with loneliness or the need of a place to belong? Would I have helped set up a ministry which organises meals to new mothers if I had had the support of family around me? God gave me emotions, skills, and insight to be His hands and feet for His family here on earth; to put in place some of those “home comforts” of having somewhere to belong and be supported. 

Yes, it’s true, it’s not my plan. Yet when viewed from above His plan is so much better. It’s also true that I still grieve my unfulfilled dreams. But I take comfort in knowing that He sees my struggles and is busy putting me in situations which will all work together for good.

He has promised us that He will be with us. That does not mean He has promised us a life of ease, which is something I still often forget and need to seek forgiveness for. God is in control, not me! And as I work through the process of grieving my dreams, I need to remember this and constantly praise Him for this fact!

God never said that my values of church, family, and community are not important. But He has told me to use my gift of creativity to reimagine how these values can play out in this place where I am a foreigner; a place I am to call home a little while longer. 

The most important thing I’ve learned in life away from home is that I am at home with God. I may not feel like I belong in Switzerland but I do belong to Jesus. It’s in Him I find my identity, not in where I come from or what I do, but in what Christ did for me. I am loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed and adopted by Him. I am home. 

I pray this text brings you comfort if you are struggling with separation and being far from home. I want to leave you with a song I often sing when I need to remember that He is in control and that He loves me. It’s “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

“And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go.

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held.

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go”


Judith C. is the founder, designer, and maker of Deer & Sparrow.

Deer & Sparrow is a colourful, joyful, honest and meaningful brand. It values family and friendship and aims to help you strengthen those cherished relationships with colour, art and words. There is a little humour, some puns, and words that build up rather than tear down. You will find no crude or swear words or politics.

Through Deer & Sparrow, you can find ways to nurture friendships, share the laughter, show appreciation, celebrate the good times and ways to show you care in the tough times.

You can follow her at on Instagram @deerandsparrow or on Facebook at Deer and Sparrow. Find all of her goodies on Etsy at

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